How to get Published in "Strong at Broken Places" & Other Anthologies
by Caryn Larrinaga
Incoming Publications Chair for the League of Utah Writers
As you’re hopefully already aware, submissions are now open for the next League of Utah Writers anthology, Strong at Broken Places. (If not, we need to be doing a better job shouting about it in every corner of the state.) League members have until midnight on Monday, May 31 to send us poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and personal essays for consideration.
Whether this would be your first publication credit or your fiftieth, I hope you’ll submit to this anthology. Not only will you get to appear in a book alongside a lot of other fantastic and talented authors, but it’s a wonderful way to help raise the League’s profile in the wider publishing world.
To help you increase your odds of winning a place in the table of contents, I wanted to share some insights from my time working through the slush piles of other anthologies.
First, no matter how great your writing is or how strongly the hook grabs us, your work must connect to the theme. The theme for this anthology is intentionally broad, so you have a lot of freedom. Take some time and think about these questions:
What does the phrase “strong at broken places” mean to you?
What images do words like “strength” and “adversity” evoke in your mind?
How can you twist the theme to fit within your preferred genre(s) of writing?
Jot down a few concepts. Run them by a trusted friend or pet, someone with whom you can talk through your ideas out loud to flesh them out and push them further (it doesn’t always matter if they can talk back). Remember, we’re only accepting one entry per author, so give yourself the best chance by starting with your strongest idea.
Next, draft your submission. (Or, if you’re pulling something out of your trunk of unpublished pieces, re-draft it to be sure it really suits the theme). Pour your passion into it. If you’re absorbed in writing it, if you’re really feeling the emotions that you’re hoping to make the reader feel, our judges will sense it. Don’t worry about all those pesky “rules” you’ve heard about that make writing “good” or “bad”—just get your words onto the page until you reach the end of your piece.
Hey, you wrote a story, poem, or essay! If there’s a narrative, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. If it’s non-narrative, you’ve captured the mood, thought, state of mind, or other idea you set out to reveal on the page. Take a moment and celebrate your achievement. Whether or not your submission makes it through to the final selection, you have created something and that is genuinely awesome.
Now comes the editing. Don’t skip this step. No matter how clean your first draft, it’s still your first draft. There’s a reason we put an ordinal number there instead of calling it THE draft, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you submit something without taking the time to tighten it up and really make it shine.
Lean on the network that’s built right into the League to polish your piece. Find a critique partner in your chapter, the League’s Facebook group, our multi-chapter Discord server, or anywhere else you like to connect with fellow authors. Swap works with one or more writers (it’s a great opportunity to practice giving and receiving feedback!), and make sure your submission is as strong as it can be before sending it in.
Once you have a well-edited piece you’re proud of, format it according to the submission guidelines. Read the guidelines thoroughly and make sure you follow every direction. Don’t give a slush reader a reason to reject your submission before they even read it. And for the love of good books, don’t miss the deadline!
Most anthology calls receive far more submissions than they can accept, and it’s often tough to decide which great pieces to publish versus which pieces to reject. If an editor or judge is struggling to make that call, there are a few things they’ll look at to make the choice easier:
Did the author follow the submission guidelines? (Yes, if it’s between two excellent stories and one of the authors didn’t bother to use the right font size, editors will often choose the author who demonstrated they can follow directions)
Does the submission really fit the theme? (Yes, if it’s between two first-rate poems and one of them took the theme to a nearly unrecognizable place, editors will often choose the one that fits more cohesively with the rest of the on-theme pieces)
Is the piece well edited, or will the editor(s) have to spend extra time getting it ready for publication? (Yes, if it’s between two beautifully moving personal essays and one of them needs more editing than the other, editors will often choose the one that adds less work to the already monumental task of getting an anthology into readers’ hands)
Once you’ve submitted your piece, have a second celebration! Indulge in a favorite treat, engage in some self-care, and share the good news with your family, friends, and fellow League members. You finished something. You took the time to make it great, and you were bold enough to submit it for publication. That’s something to be proud of!
Caryn Larrinaga is a Basque-American mystery, horror, and urban fantasy writer. Her debut novel, Donn’s Hill, was awarded the League of Utah Writers 2017 Silver Quill in the adult novel category and was a 2017 Dragon Award finalist.
Caryn lives near SLC, Utah, with her husband and their clowder of cats.
Caryn is an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the Cat Writers Association, the League of Utah Writers, and the Utah Chapter of the Horror Writers Association.